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Where Are They Now?

Kathy Kurth
Viking Class of '92
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Wizard of Oz

Kathy is working for American Family in their HR department developing staffing and compensation programs. Prior to that, she worked for a few years as an Instructional Designer and Training Specialist in Madison.

She clearly sees that Viking Drama has impacted her life even though she is no longer in theatre. When she used to tell people what she did (design and leadtraining/adult-learning programs), they would usually talk about how they would not be good at that because they hate talking in front of people. It's amazing to think that the little girl who was so shy that she couldn't even order for herself at a restaurant turned into this person who feels comfortable leading groups from 2 to 200.

Yes, some of that came from her years of speech team too, but she would never have gotten to that endeavor if it hadn't been for Viking Drama and Mr. Neal. She thinks she was probably the only person to cry when she was CAST in one of Viking's shows (because she so very badly wanted to be the stage manager)...but Mr. Neal helped her to find the confidence to stand not only behind the stage, but also out in the lights.

The Wizard of Oz is still one of the best experiences of her life, and a definite turning point for her personally. When she thinks about how she got to be where she is, which is very successful,confident, and happy with her career and life, she attributes much of it to the very special beginning and unique experiences she had in Viking Drama and to Mr. Neal's influence.

Kathy's still a fairly shy person in social situations, which is just part of her personality; but in professional settings she's a confident, well-spoken leader - which puts her in a league with co-workers 10 years older than herself. She learned how to overcome her shyness and fear when she had a purpose or task that needed to be handled, with Mr. Neal's help and encouragement.

Kathy first learned about leadership, trust, respect, and hard work in Viking Drama. She often brought many of the principles taught at Viking Drama into her theatre when she stage managed at Six Flags. Her favorite expression was "many hands make light work", =) and she challenged the cast and crew in her theatres to work TOGETHER as a production team (which was a tall order at times with the difference in attitudes toward being a "techie" verses an "actor/dancer/singer" - not all theatre people had the enlightened learning and cross-functional experiences that she had at Viking...some had never experienced the other side and hadn't learned the respect for it.)

And while she didn't always succeed in educating and changing that attitude, Kathy did earn the respect of her employees and peers for trying - to the point that they voted her "Employee of the Year" and "Supervisor of the Year".

Kathy has been able to achieve so many things that she's very proud of because of what she learned and lived at Viking in that wonderful theatre. These achievements are extensions of Mr. Neal's achievements, and hopefully a wonderful compliment and proof that he did make a difference in so many lives. And the philosophy that guided his teaching methods does hold significant value for developing young people at a critical point in their lives - even if they don't end up in theatre.

(As a side note: she sometimes feels that she's probably disappointed Mr. Neal by leaving theatre...but she had to find a place where she fit and apply all that she learned there. She never really explained, because it didn't all makes sense until recently. Kathy LOVES theatre - especially musical theatre and stagecraft- but she found very early in college (when she was a theatre major) that she didn't understand or fit with most of the adults in theatre. It was a huge blow when her advisor in theatre told her that she would be "wasting her talents on teaching" and if she wanted to teach, she should just go be an English major (which she could never understand because this person was a professor). Kathy was pretty lost and left the school altogether.

When she transferred to ISU, she tried to get back into it and stage managed a little there, but found similar narrow minded "influencers" there and just couldn't stomach the people she was spending time with.

It was really sad, and she was really lost. All the while she was working at Six Flags as a manager in their entertainment area because she still believed theatre was where she should really be, and it wasn't until she had one absolutely terrible boss that she figured out how she could make a difference. This boss used what I like to call the "Bobby Knight" approach to management - and reduced most of his employees to tears on a weekly basis -and NOBODY did anything about it.

That's when she learned about this area called "Human Resources", which is supposed to be the advocate for fairness, respect, and motivation in the workplace. Her HR department at the time was terrible - and that's when she realized that she could take all of the lessons she'd learned from working in theatre and help to make sure no one else ever had to endure such terrible circumstances.

Kathy finally found people who were more open-minded and enlightened about the nuances of people and personal development, which she knows now was what she respected most about Mr. Neal all those years. She's in Staffing and Compensation right now because that's where her professional development rotation has taken her, but her true passion is around learning and development - helping people to grow personally and professionally, and providing the tools and resources to help them succeed.

It's not really that far from what Mr. Neal was trying to accomplish in theatre education, and as she was reading through the Philosophy page on the Viking Drama website, it all resonated strongly with her still. It's still about respect, responsibility,cooperation, and pride. It's about the journey and what you learn along the way, not the destination.

Becca Mazur
Viking Class of '96
Annie Warbucks

Becca is still out in Colorado. She just graduated from Colorado State with a Masters of Science in Atmospheric Science.

As for her future, she is in the process of looking for a meteorologist position anywhere she can find one. She would love to forecast for the National Weather Service, but those jobs are hard to come by so she's keeping her options open.

Until then, she will continue to work for CSU as a temp employee for the Atmospheric Science Dept working on small projects like data aquisition and organization. It's great filler until she finds something more permanent.

Laura Calhoun
Viking Class of '00
School House Rock,Live!, The Hobbit, Godspell, 1940's Radio Hour, Bye, Bye, Birdie

Laura attends Taylor University and will be off to Cuenca, Ecuador on a trip that will serve as a short-term practicum for social work as well as a missions trip.

She will be working with children who have cerbral palsy, teaching english, and working with the elderly in nursing homes and who knows what else - you always have to be flexible on trips like this! She would greatly appreciate your prayers!!! She will send us a report sometime after she returns. Laura is looking forward to spending some time in another culture.

Jennifer Lind Larkin
Viking Class of '84
Pyramus and Thisbe

Jenny is married to a sweet man named Shaun and they have a son who is 4 1/2 now. His name is Finley but they call him Finn. They make their home in Downers Grove. Jenny is a full time mom and a full time invitation designer of a business she created about 8 years ago. She says it does not seem fair because full time of both seems to be more hours than there are possible.

Julie Freeman Loeffler
Viking Class of '93
Wizard of Oz, Free To Be You And Me

Viking Drama will always hold a dear place in my heart. It gave me confidence and determination. It showed me that I can do anything if I put my mind to it. My parents made me try out for The Wizard of Oz. They told me that they didn't want to see me get off the bus and they'd pick me up after try-outs the first day. I was hooked after that first day of try outs. I had it in my heart to be a Munchkin with the dream of being the Tinman. When I got the part of the Cowardly Lion, another cast member who got the Tinman part and I tried to convince Mr. Neal he got us mixed up. He wouldn't hear of it and said his decision was final. I had a rough time with that part for 2/3 of the rehearsals. One day, after a breakdown, I really started giving 110%. I tried to make the Lion my own, rather than doing what Laura Burleson (the other Lion) was doing. I had a blast with the part and that musical gave me the confidence I needed and applied it to my dance performances and throughout life.

I strayed away from theater in the long run, but not before I danced and sang in the Six Flags Great America Show, "Hip Hop Hare" and the nightly parade the "20th Anniversary Birthday Bash" in the summer of '96. I was the lead female dancer in both.

After I graduated from Warren THS, I went to Illinois State University. I started out as a theatre major, but soon changed to Mass Communications/Broadcast Journalism with a Dance Minor. Dance was always my main love growing up, so it was important for me to continue through college. I was only in the ISU Dance Company my senior year at ISU, but took classes all four years. I didn't participate all four years in the Company because I was an active member in one of two collegiate circus's in the United States, Gamma Phi Circus. I was in multiple acts including, Trick Roller Skating (Act Captain), Russian Swing (Act Captain), Rhythmic Gymnastics (Act Captain), Ankle Hang (Act Captain), and Trampoline. In order to complete my Dance Minor, I had to be in the Dance Company for a year. I couldn't do both Circus and Company all four years, so I chose to complete my senior year in the Dance Company. I choreographed a Tap Solo in the Student Choreography Performance and I was in the Winter Company Show.

The Dance program at ISU wasn't what I wanted it to be. It was mostly centered around Modern Dance and my talent was always through Ballet, Lyrical and Tap. I never really found my niche at ISU through Dance, so I stopped pursuing it after I graduated in '01.

After graduation, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I had a degree in Broadcast Journalism, but I wasn't comfortable being in front of the camera. It wasn't the same as being on stage where I had a live audience in the palm of my hand. I wasn't ready to go home yet, so I stayed in Normal, IL for a year and worked as an Assistant Manager at Walgreens. Once I got the college life out of my system, I moved back to Gurnee and started a new job at the Walgreens corporate office in Deerfield, IL in April '02. It was my second day in my new job that I met my future husband, Keith. Keith was leading a training class I had to attend and I couldn't take my eyes off of him. We became friends right away.

Keith and I married in October '05 and currently live in Gurnee with our little Maltese, Reese. I'm currently a Store Planner in the Marketing division at Walgreens. (meaning, I set the store layouts in AutoCAD for our new stores.) We are hoping to start a family in the near future and I look forward to the most important job I'll ever have as a Mommy.